Notre Dame’s depth for the 2015 season took another hit late Wednesday night when news began to surface that backup defensive end Kolin Hill has asked for, and been granted, a release from his scholarship in order to transfer from Notre Dame.
News of Hills impending transfer comes on the heels of news that junior running back Greg Bryant would be lost for the season due to suspension in addition to the loss of Mike Heuerman and Michael Deeb to medical redshirt all within the last 48 hours.
Hill came to Notre Dame as a linebacker but carved a niche for himself as a situational pass rusher for the Irish as a defensive end in the early part of his freshman season. As opposing offenses adjusted to Brian VanGorder’s multiple sub packages, however, Hill’s role diminished and not much was heard from the Texas native following his breakout performance in Notre Dame’s upset of Michigan.
With Hill leaving the program, depth at defensive end becomes nearly as thin as the depth at running back following Bryant’s departure. Notre Dame lost incoming freshman Bo Wallace and sophomore Jhonny Williams earlier this off-season as well leaving the Irish down three defensive ends when they report to came later this week.
While Hill’s role might still have been that of a situational pass rusher this fall, his loss could be felt when it comes to getting after the quarterback. Notre Dame is in desparate need of pass rushers in order to live up to the hype that is building around the program – hype that now includes a playoff prediction, #4 ranking, and Sports Illustrated cover as of Wednesday.
Notre Dame will now look to sophomores Grant Blankenship and Jonathan Bonner to play larger roles in 2015 although it’s been said that Blankenship could still use some time in the weight room before he’s ideally ready to make his mark.
The very up in the air status of potential 5th year senior Ishaq Williams further clouds Notre Dame’s defensive end depth. It is still very unclear as to whether or not Williams will be cleared to play this fall. Hill’s transfer, however, would make a return from Williams that much more important.
Despite the hit to its depth, Notre Dame should still remain strong in the two deep at defensive end with Andrew Trumbetti and Romeo Okwara securing the weakside with Doug Randolph behind them and rising star Isaac Rochell on the strongside with Bonner and Blankenship backing up the stout Georgia native. Should the Irish experience a rash of injuries like they did a year ago, however, and things could get precarious pretty quickly.
The run of departures from the program likely means a larger than expected recruiting class for Notre Dame in 2016 as well. It also means that some of the 3-star recruits that have drawn some angst among the fan base have become that much more important for Notre Dame as the Irish will need to restock some depth.
Amazingly, it was just weeks ago that everyone was wondering how the Irish would get under 85 scholarships and just has been the case almost every August for as long as I can remember, Notre Dame will not have any concerns getting under the NCAA scholarship limit once again this year.